Does salvation equal freedom from sin?
After an early exposure to pornographic magazines, I spent my teen years fascinated by and addicted to pornography, masturbation and cybersex. Though I was increasingly convicted by the Holy Spirit, I could not ultimately rid myself of the addiction until I read Romans 7, realized that I no longer had to do “that which I would not,” and prayed a simple prayer of faith. The next day, I was free from the addiction. Liberation was instantaneous. Exactly once after my salvation, I fell back into lust, but I immediately realized that it was no longer an uncontrollable desire.
This is the experience God has planned for all who would become sons of God. Once one has found salvation in Jesus Christ, one does not have to struggle with sin.
Theological errors tend to come in pairs. The fact that we need moral discipline to follow Christ doesn’t mean that we can do without His help; the fact that we receive His help doesn’t mean that we can do without moral discipline. You don’t need the first reminder, but I think you need the second one. Just because I gave practical advice about discipline, you think I was denying grace. This is a terribly dangerous mistake.
Forgiveness is instantaneous, but the freedom of perfect purity takes time. Some few individuals are delivered from particular sinful tendencies overnight, as you think that you were. But no one is delivered from all sinful tendencies overnight. If you believe that you have been delivered from all of your sinful tendencies, you have probably not examined yourself as carefully as you think you have.
Be more honest toward yourself — and be more charitable toward your struggling neighbors. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” says Paul (Philippians 2:12). Grace doesn’t mean no struggle; struggle doesn’t mean no grace.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2004 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.